With the advent of TikTok, many people questioned its potential impact on society, especially with regard to mental health.
According to a first-of-its-kind study by computer science researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, TikTok’s impact on users’ mental health is complex, and the social media platform and its unique algorithm can act as a haven and a hindrance for users with mental disorders.
In interviews with TikTok users, the University of Minnesota team found that the platform gave many of them a sense of self-discovery and community that they couldn’t find on other social networks. However, the researchers said that the TikTok algorithm also shows a disturbing tendency to repeatedly show users content that could be harmful to their mental health.
“TikTok is misunderstood by people who don’t use the platform,” explained Stevie Chancellor, senior author of the paper and assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Minnesota. “They think of it as a platform.” for a dance or a place to diagnose ADHD.” “Our research shows that TikTok is helping people find information about society and mental health. But users also need to pay attention to its algorithm, how it works, and when the system feeds data to it. that are detrimental to their well-being.”
TikTok differs from other social media platforms in that it is primarily based on a recommendation system algorithm that shows videos it thinks you will like in your For You feed, rather than showing posts primarily from accounts that you are subscribed.
The researchers said that while this can be helpful in showing you more of the content you like, it can also lead to a gap of negative content that is almost impossible to get rid of.
“TikTok is a huge platform for mental health content. People tend to gravitate to social media to find information and other people who are in similar situations,” said Ashley Melton, first author of the article and PhD student in computer science. Sciences. and engineers at the University of Minnesota. “Our members say how helpful this mental health information is. But at some point, because of how the app’s home page works, you’ll keep giving them more and more of the same content. And then it can go from useful to annoying and exciting.”
Researchers have found that when users get caught up in the harmful whirlpool of negative content, there is often no way out. There is a “not interested” button in the TikTok interface, but study participants said that this does not affect the content that appears on the main pages of their accounts.
Study participants also expressed difficulty distinguishing when TikTok creators were posting really emotional or mental health-intensive content, or whether they were “chasing themselves” to gain more followers and likes.
Many members have been forced to take breaks or stop using the platform entirely due to the stress it causes.
According to University of Minnesota researchers, this does not mean that TikTok is harmful. But they said it was useful information to keep in mind when using the platform, especially for mental health purposes.
Source: Medical Express